130 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE gathering stream, uninterrupted, continuous. The writing of history then became the most serious form of literature and the writing of poetry became its highest and most refined emotional outlet. Sometimes, when the "wine was fragrant and the tea well- brewed," amidst the singing of the kettle and the gurgling of the spring, a happy thought came to the Chinese, and at intervals of about five hundred years, or under the forces of changed circumstances, their minds became creative and a new discovery was made either in the metre of poetry or in the improvement of porcelain, or in the art of grafting pear-trees, and the nation moved on. They gave up speculation about immortality as something for ever unknowable but for ever to be conjectured and gossiped about, half seriously and half playfully. Equally they gave up the mysteries of nature, thunderstorms and lightning and hail and snow, and the mysteries of their own bodily functions, such as the connection between salival flow and hunger. They did not use the test- tube or the scalpel. So sometimes it seemed to them as if the whole sphere of the knowable had been exhausted by their ancient forefathers, and the last word on human philosophy said, and the last rhythm in calligraphy discovered. So they fell more seriously to the business of living than to the business of making progress* They took infinite pains and spent sleepness nights over the planning of their private gardens or the cooking of sharks' fins, and fell to eating with the seriousness and gusto of an Omar Khayyam, who trailed the dust of philosophy in vain and took again the vine for his spouse. In this, they crossed the threshold of all the arts, and entered the hall of the art of life itself, and art and life became one. They achieved that crown of Chinese culture, the art of living, which is the end of all human wisdom.